The fall of Roman Polanski's career remains one of world cinema's most tragic stories. By the late '60s, this visionary was undeniably an American filmmaker, no longer a Pole on loan, who gave young Hollywood's bold new spirit (Buon giorno, Don Corleone; may the Force be with you, Luke Skywalker) much of its energy and verve. Between the demonic frights of Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Polanski's shockingly bloody Macbeth (1971), the Manson Family came to call, and then something may have gone awry in Polanski's brain waves, too -- resulting in a ruinous sexual-abuse scandal and his flight back to Europe. In the haunted years between Sharon Tate's murder and his exile to Paris, Polanski wrought his masterpiece, Chinatown (1974), a tribute to 1930s detective movies suffused with the director's unblinking obsession with the grotesque and his gnawing puzzlements at the darkness in the human heart. Combining public scandal in Depression-era Los Angeles with some unspeakable family traumas (murder! incest!), this is much more than a mystery in the hardboiled Hammett-Chandler tradition. It is a roadmap for souls in torment, starring a top-of-his-game Jack Nicholson as the detached L.A. private eye Jake Gittes, fellow director John Huston as a water baron deep in the throes of corruption and Faye Dunaway as the inevitable femme fatale, who harbors secrets and agendas it takes an entire evening to unravel. Complex, fascinating and beautiful to look at, this is one of the great Hollywood films of the '70s, or perhaps of all time. See it again on the big screen this Sunday, August 3, in the University of Colorado's International Film Series. Screenings are at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in Muenzinger Auditorium on the Boulder campus. For information, call 303-492-1531 or log on to www.internationalfilmseries.com.
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